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Stuart: A Life Backwards [Kindle Edition]

Alexander Masters
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)

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Book Description

‘Stuart does not like the manuscript. He’s after a bestseller, “like what Tom Clancy writes”. “But you are not an assassin trying to frazzle the president with anthrax bombs,” I point out. You are an ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath, I do not add.’

This is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer (‘a middle-class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander’), and Stuart Shorter, a homeless, knife-wielding thief. Told backwards – Stuart’s idea – it starts with a deeply troubled thirty-two-year-old and ends with a ‘happy-go-lucky little boy’ of twelve. This brilliant biography, winner of the Guardian First Book Award, presents a humbling portrait of homeless life, and is as extraordinary and unexpected as the man it describes.



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Review

'It will surely prove to be the debut of the year.' Andrew O'Hagan, Telegraph

'I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin … My enthusiasm feels almost limitless. A page-turner…the structure of Stuart is a masterstroke, allowing buried secrets to be uncovered like hunks of beef beneath silver domes.' Observer

'One of the most unusual biographies of recent years … one of 2005's outstanding debuts.' Metro

'A bitterly funny book.' Guardian

'Funny and original, a startling book … By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling.' Vogue

'A remarkable biography. Not since John Healey's classic memoir The Grass Arena has life on the street been catalogued with such candour and to such illuminating effect … unforgettably moving. A gripping read." Tim Lott, Sunday Times

'This is a very rare and moral and haunting book, the best of its kind since Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. On the way to telling the story of one homeless man, Alexander Masters manages to tell a compelling story about modern Britain, and a new and sometimes funny story about the trials of authorship. A great first book: I think it should replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in Britain.' Andrew O'Hagan'It will surely prove to be the debut of the year.' Andrew O'Hagan, Telegraph

'I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin … My enthusiasm feels almost limitless. A page-turner…the structure of Stuart is a masterstroke, allowing buried secrets to be uncovered like hunks of beef beneath silver domes.' Observer

'One of the most unusual biographies of recent years … one of 2005's outstanding debuts.' Metro

'A bitterly funny book.' Guardian

'Funny and original, a startling book … By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling.' Vogue

'A remarkable biography. Not since John Healey's classic memoir The Grass Arena has life on the street been catalogued with such candour and to such illuminating effect … unforgettably moving. A gripping read." Tim Lott, Sunday Times

'This is a very rare and moral and haunting book, the best of its kind since Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. On the way to telling the story of one homeless man, Alexander Masters manages to tell a compelling story about modern Britain, and a new and sometimes funny story about the trials of authorship. A great first book: I think it should replace the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in Britain.' Andrew O'Hagan

Daily Mail

'Stuart Shorter bursts off every page of this extraordinary book'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
276 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly outstanding, original book 15 Mar. 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Tne story of Stuart Shorter is the story of a person nobody wants to know- the homeless 'nutter', the beggar, the addict, the offender. Nobody that is, except, for reasons that aren't at first clear even to him, Alexander Masters, a hostel worker who stumbles across Stuart begging in Cambridge. Their relationship is unique in literature, one is an illiterate yob and the other is an ex-boarding-school pupil and do-gooder. Somehow they immediately connect and as their touching relationship unfolds and Stuart's life is rewound, you realise that this nutter is a truly amazing human being. His biographer brings him to life so brilliantly it is impossible not to howl (mentally at least) with laughter at their adventures at the Home Office, Stuart's incisive insights, and then at the agony of the inevitable tragedies. Brilliant, buy it, be moved and then wonder how much potential is in all those homeless 'scum' asking for change from downtrodden commuters on their way to and from work.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
If you pick up this book and read the many, many comments and rave reviews, you'll see that this book is a must read this year.

This is the story of Stuart, a chronic homeless man who from an early age has sniffed glue, done heroin, abused booze, been abused, been to prison... you name it and it probably has happened to him. It is almost as much a story about the author as it is about Stuart, detailing their relationship and the troubles Alexander Masters has putting Stuarts life down on paper.

And that is what makes this book worth a read - there are no clear answers, no solutions and no holds barred, just like in life itself. Stuart himself asked Alexander to write the book backwards, from his present life back to when he was a young boy and when he 'first discovered violence'. This could have been more effective if countless to-ing and fro-ing between the present and the past had been avioded but i think the author felt it important to convey the mixed up nature of Stuart's world.

If you want to open your mind and take in the account of one man who has had had a traumatic life and understandably has had difficulty coming to terms with what has happened to him, then this is your book. We see homeless people everyday but never stop to think about who they are and why they are there. We judge them instantly and avoid contact with them because they remind us of the dark side of society.

It's easier to think of homeless people as 'dangerous others' who desearve what they have got and could change their circumstances if they tried - Stuart will change this for you and put a real story and a real face to this group of unfortunate people.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have just finished reading this book and am deeply moved by it. The story of Stuart, a homeless, rage filled man is brilliantly captured by the author, and certainly leaves you thinking. Even reading some of the awful things Stuart has done, you are still left feeling that he is someone you would want to get to know. The conclusion is emotional, and made me feel lost for words. Well worth the read - I couldn't put it down.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece by Alexander Masters! 18 May 2005
Format:Hardcover
Alexander Masters has written a very gripping biography - one that almost reads as a novel. An extraordinary friendship develops between Masters, a Cambridge academic, and Stuart, a chaotic, knife-wedding beggar, when the two of them are involved in a campaign to release two charity workers from prison. Masters relates Stuart's life backwards in an attempt to discover how a happy-go-lucky little boy turns into a polydrug-addicted-alcoholic Jekyll and Hyde personality.
Stuart: A Life Backwards not only makes the reader acutely aware of the failings of society but also sense the despair of those who try to make a difference. Masters intelligently and humorously portrays Stuart's life in such a way that one cannot help but like the ex-homeless, ex-junkie psychopath.
Having lived in Cambridge myself during the time of Masters's and Stuart's friendship, I am ashamed to admit that I was blissfully unaware of people like Stuart who made those same streets I walked along their home. For anyone who wishes to have their eyes opened, I highly recommend Stuart: A Life Backwards.
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100 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb ! 27 Feb. 2006
Format:Paperback
In my opinion this book is an absolute must read. It is a beautifully written, insightful, tragic and yet often humorous account of an dysfunctional life . The Authors reverse journey through the story of Stuart Shorter is one of the most compelling tales I have ever read. Within Twenty minutes of picking this book up I was hooked. At it's conclusion I cried. Brilliant !
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 24 April 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the biography of a person you've never heard of - a strange but compelling idea. Alexander Masters takes as his subject career criminal Stuart Shorter, and traces his development from grave to cradle, so to speak. In the process he highlights some of the ways that criminality escalates and proliferates: Stuart, a sometime heroin addict and surging muddle of violence, is a chaotic and difficult person, with serious convictions to his name (five years for raiding a post office, for example), but he emerges as a victim of the inadequate criminal justice system, of childhood trauma and of a neglectful educational system. In fact, Stuart, whom Masters paints warts and all, is oddly likeable. This makes the story of his ill-directed life a tragic one, and it's a powerful and timely story too. Moreover, Masters writes in a distinctive and intelligent way; he's not afraid to say things that fly in the face of political correctness, and he's not afraid to show his occasional disgust with Stuart's excesses, but this is a poignant and compassionate book, which deserves to reach a wide audience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Great book played by tom hardy brilliantly in the film!! Once you have seen the film you can imagine all the trials stuart has gone through
Published 1 day ago by Miss D Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Such a good book to read .... An insite to how some people are less fortunate in life
Published 1 month ago by Jo
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone's life is worthwhile
This story of Stuart's life has twists and turns that you don't expect. I went to see the play after reading the book as Stuart's life made me think about things and how I respond... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Poppy
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!!!
Amazing book!! Definitely a MUST READ
Published 2 months ago by kerrie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Incredibly sad story but very funny and makes you laugh out load in places. I've been meaning to read it for years and glad I finally did.
Published 2 months ago by HH
5.0 out of 5 stars Really moving. Recommended.
Quite unexpectedly loved this book. Odd and beautifully strange. Caught me by surprise. Still thinking about it now. Stuart really came alive for me.
Published 5 months ago by Pam Vick
3.0 out of 5 stars Without doubt the central character led a distressing existence. ...
Without doubt the central character led a distressing existence. This has been chronicled in an expert, if not in a semi academic style. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ovalbloke
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, funny, harrowing
Published 5 months ago by Harpymarx
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Everyone must read this accurate description of life on the streets.
Published 5 months ago by Jennifer Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a good read, an insight into what the average person walks...
Brilliant read, such a sad ending. What a great friendship. It just goes to show, no matter what walk of life we are from, we are a one off....and Stuart was just that. Read more
Published 6 months ago by emc
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